A little group of rural Utahns is causing quite a stir.
They wanted some college courses in their area, so when they were turned down by the state education officials, they went to the 1998 Legislature.On Wednesday, their proposal to create Snow College South passed its first legislative hurdle despite cries that the group circumvented the system.
In a 5-4 vote, the House Political Subdivisions Committee favorably approved HB114, which would merge college courses into the Sevier Valley Applied Technology Center in Richfield.
The bill is now headed to debate - or a "bloodbath" as one lawmaker called it - on the floor of the Utah House.
The state's Applied Technology Centers teach adults and high school students skills to get a job, not for a college degree. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Bradley T. John-son, R-Aurora, would combine the technology classes with lower division general education college courses to create Snow College South.
At issue is the tenuous relationship higher and public education officials share to oversee the state's applied technology centers. To that end, officials from both camps sit on the Joint Liaison Committee, which in December heard the request from the rural Utahns.
Johnson said the committee "turned them down flat."
The State Office of Education and the Sevier Valley Applied Technology Center governing board oppose the bill, citing the need for more study of the issue. The Utah Board of Regents has not taken a position on the bill, Commissioner of Higher Education Cecelia Foxley said.
Johnson called the opposition a "turf battle," saying the two groups and their joint committee would never agree.
"You'll never get two groups of bureaucracy to divide up something. This is totally a turf battle. This will never be solved by the Joint Liaison Committee."
State Superintendent for Public Instruction Scott Bean, who is a member of the committee, said the group is willing to look at the concept. But he criticized the way supporters "compromised" procedure by going directly to lawmakers.
"The process was clearly circumvented by this piece of legislation," Bean said.
Nancy R. Jensen, board member of the Sevier Valley Applied Technology Center, said her board is against Johnson's bill.
"There are too many ramifications to ram this through," Jensen said. She told lawmakers she feared the technology students would slowly be shown the back door if academia came to their facility.
Rep. Blake D. Chard, R-Layton, supported the bill and criticized Utah officials who have overemphasized higher education.